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Driving while using a mobile phone

Using a mobile phone while driving is a mistake made by many, but you may be able to dispute a charge if one is made against you.

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Even though mobile phones have become an indispensable part of life for many, it is against the law to use a hand-held phone or device while driving.

This applies whether you are driving a car or a motorcycle, and even if you are stopped at traffic lights or stationary in queuing traffic.

In 2015 alone, it was reported that using a phone was a factor in 22 fatal accidents and 99 serious injuries.

What constitutes using a mobile phone while driving?

Driving regulations state that the use of a mobile telephone or similar hand-held device while driving is prohibited.

The law defines hand-held devices as items that must be held in order to carry out communication.

This includes while you're in static traffic, slow-moving traffic and while stationary at traffic lights.

Even if you never make a call when behind the wheel, you're still breaking the law if you use the phone, for example, to text or browse the internet.

Devices that fall under this law include anything that can send or receive spoken or written messages, send or receive still or moving images, and anything that can provide access to the internet. 

If you have your phone rigged up to a hands-free kit and you can operate it without holding it, then you can use it in a way that is not prohibited by this offence (such as pushing buttons on a phone while it is in a holder).

However, the offence will apply if you have picked up your phone to check for text messages, or if you were cradling the device between your ear and your shoulder.

However, you can use your phone with your hands if you are parked safely. The law defines this as being parked in a lay-by or being pulled up on a single yellow line with your car’s engine switched off.

Pretty much the only exception to the rule is if you need to call the emergency services and it is unsafe for you to stop or pull over.

What are the penalties for using a mobile phone while driving?

You can get 6 penalty points and a £200 on-the-spot fine if you're caught using a hand-held phone when driving. You could also lose your licence if you passed your driving test in the last 2 years.

The maximum penalty is a fine of £1,000 and a driving ban, although bus and lorry drivers can be fined up to £2,500.

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What are the defences to using a mobile phone while driving?

You may be able to go to court to plead your defence if you wish to. The law states that you only need to be seen using a mobile while driving, although police officers could mistake certain driver behaviour for the use of a mobile phone or similar device.

For example, you might have been adjusting your seat position while traffic was at a standstill, and an officer may have mistakenly thought you were texting.

The details of your particular case will shape your defence against any charge, and a well-argued defence from skilled solicitors, such as those available through First4Lawyers, could offer the best chance of an acquittal of the charge, or a reduced penalty.

If you were using your phone while driving in order to dial 999, or in a genuine emergency when it was not possible to pull over, you may be exempt from punishment.

I’ve been given a mobile phone while driving charge that I want to dispute – what should I do?

If you are charged with an offence that you disagree with, you do not have to accept a fixed penalty notice from the police. If you refuse it, then you may be summonsed to appear in court.

For this type of offence, hearings take place in a magistrates’ court, and there you will be able to give your version of events. To make sure you give yourself the best possible representation in court, it’s best to choose an experienced motoring solicitor to help you build your defence and achieve the outcome you want.

At First4Lawyers we work closely with motoring solicitors who regularly deal with cases involving the use of mobile phones while driving. Get in touch for a no-obligation conversation about how we can help with your defence.

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